The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) honored three members today at its annual meeting for their outstanding service. The honorees are Cato Laurencin, University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut; David Savitz, professor of epidemiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics at Brown University; and Gail Wilensky, economist and senior fellow at Project HOPE.
“These distinguished members represent the true spirit of dedication through their decades of service to NAM,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “The diverse perspectives they bring to their activities have helped shape sound policies, inform public opinion, and advance knowledge about some of today’s most complex issues in health and medicine. We are delighted to honor them for their leadership and their mentorship to so many.”
Laurencin received the Walsh McDermott Medal, which is awarded to a member for distinguished service to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine over an extended period. Since his election to NAM in 2004, Laurencin has served on more than 20 committees and has held several leadership positions, including serving as a section chair on the NAM’s Membership Committee. A devoted mentor and champion of early career and underrepresented minority scientists, Laurencin is currently a member of the Advisory Committee for New Voices in Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Laurencin is known internationally for his research in biomaterials, drug delivery, nanotechnology, stem cell science, and a field he has pioneered, regenerative engineering. In 2012, his breakthrough work on engineering the anterior cruciate ligament was highlighted by National Geographic Magazine in its “100 Discoveries That Have Changed Our World” edition. Laurencin is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and was also elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2011. He is the first to receive both the Simon Ramo Founders Award from NAE and the Walsh McDermott Medal from NAM. As a practicing orthopedic surgeon and engineer, he has brought a unique multidisciplinary perspective and innovative design and systems thinking approaches to all activities.
Savitz was awarded the David Rall Medal, which is given to a member who has demonstrated distinguished leadership as chair of a study committee or other such activity, showing commitment that far exceeds the position’s responsibilities. During his 26 years of service to NAM, he has served on the Board on the Health of Select Populations and more than a dozen committees, five of which he chaired. Savitz’s reputation as a skilled judge of evidence, a rigorous critical thinker, and a careful communicator of scientific findings and their implications have made him a highly sought committee chair. His committees have often taken on contentious, scientifically challenging issues, including electromagnetic radiation, Agent Orange and burn pit exposures among veterans, contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and the public health ramifications of e-cigarettes. Notably, under his leadership as chair, the Committee on Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune produced a report that helped inform legislation, which was signed by President Obama.
Wilensky received the Adam Yarmolinsky Medal, which is awarded to a member from a discipline outside the health and medical sciences who has contributed to the mission of the NAM over a significant period. An NAM member since 1989, Wilensky is a nationally renowned health economist whose research focuses on Medicare reform, comparative effectiveness, and military health care. She has served on the NAM Council for two terms, as well as on the Boards on Health Care Services; Children, Youth, and Families; and Health Sciences Policy; and on the Policy and Global Affairs Division’s Committee. She has served on nine consensus studies and steering committees. For six years, Wilensky was a member of the advisory board for NAM’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Fellowships and now serves on the Advisory Committee for the Culture of Health Program, providing leadership and insight for these distinguished programs. She was instrumental in designing the RWJF fellowship’s orientation, and has engaged hundreds of fellows in her full-day immersion on how health policy and the economy are integrally related. Her trainings have prepared fellows to create and implement health legislation in key congressional and executive branch offices.
The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and the international community. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the NAM works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. The NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies and other divisions within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.